Thursday, April 30, 2009

Amazing bicycle skills

This guy's incredible:

FYI, his name is Danny MacAskill. He's 23, and has been riding for 12 years. Given this video, I would be very sad but not at all surprised to one day hear he'd been killed doing this stuff.

Until that happens, though, I suppose I'll just sit here and be amazed. Don't miss the part starting at about 3 minutes in. Wow.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The spam that almost got me...

Check out this email I got today at work:


I'm pretty cautious, but I just about clicked on the "To see it, click here" link.

It's a good thing I didn't, that link points to a .exe file located on a server named "". For those really not into computers, that link points to a Windows "executable", i.e. a program that very likely will do bad things to my computer. Clicking on it could have downloaded and run it (maybe with a dialog box asking me about it, I didn't want to press my luck trying it).

I think what kept me from it was seeing that "received" is misspelled. Misspellings are common in phishing and other spam emails.

The other thing is the link itself. I don't trust *any* emails I get, including the links in them -- especially HTML ones. Again, for the uninitiated, there's really two main types of emails you can receive -- plain text, and HTML formatted. HTML allows you to have formatted text with underlines, bold, multi-colored, etc. text. With plain text, it's just letters and numbers. Links in plain text emails look like this: In HTML emails, you can make links with pretty much any text, like this. Even worse, if I were malicious, I could make a link that looks like a link to CNN, but takes you to Amazon's webpage: In this case, the bad guys put a link to a trojan horse (I presume), masked as "here".

So how can you tell? Most email clients (Entourage, Outlook Express, hopefully others) will show you the real url (address) of a link down in the status bar at the bottom of the window when you hover over it with your mouse.* In this case, I did that and immediately saw that the link wasn't at, but at that "" site.

If you're not totally sure where the link goes, try to copy the link and paste it into a text editor (TextEdit on the Mac, Notepad on the PC), then if it looks okay, you can copy/paste it into your browser's address bar. That's much safer.

Lastly -- was I worried? A little, I still don't have a replacement Mac at work so I was using a Windows PC. Do .exe files affect Macs? Nope. =) Macs can't natively run those types of files**, so they're not really dangerous.
* Sadly, that does *not* always work with your browser -- malicious websites can fake the text shown in the link on the status bar. Google's search results pages even do little tricks with that text, showing you the bare link you're going to, but really linking to another google url that keeps track of which result you clicked before actually taking you there.

** ... unless you have vmware or parallels installed and run it through there.

Swine Flu in Madison probable: Madison schools closed till Monday

See here.

Wow, I never expected schools to shut down over an illness like this. The news today said 36,000 people in the US died in 2005 from the flu/pneumonia. A tiny fraction of that die in Mexico from this thing, and when it shows up we shut down all the schools in town? Curious.

Imagine a real pandemic where we're asked to stay in our homes for 3 weeks. Wouldn't it be great if we didn't have to race to the store hoping there was food left to keep us going that long? =)
* Full disclosure: we'd be lucky to make it 3 months without access to a store! But we're working on it!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

"Mac-Specific Virus Threat"?

Oh, FoxNews, you're really starting to get on my nerves with your lame, inaccurate reporting!

You imply with your title that there's a new virus in town specifically targeting Macs. What you don't say is:
  • Trojan horses are *not* viruses -- viruses replicate on their own. To get this trojan horse, you had to download a hacked copy of iWork '09 off a pirate website and install it.
  • This thing's been around for months, it was discovered in January.
This is one of the first instances of a malicious trojan horse on the Mac. There have been other proof-of-concept vulnerabilities in Safari and QuickTime, but those were pretty quickly patched.

Bottom line, Mac-using family and friends -- don't go to pirate sites, free mp3 sites, or any porn sites. If you stay away from those, you're still pretty safe using a Mac.

Oh, and watch out for FoxNews, too. =)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

How to avoid one traveling nightmare

You may have noticed I haven't done much blogging in the last few months, and with good reason -- it's been a rough few months!

Quick summary: my work Mac blows up, I can't work, bring my personal Mac into work with tacit (not explicit) permission from my boss, corporate suspects me of industrial espionage and confiscates my personal laptop for 3 weeks, now I *really* can't work, that finally blows over, but I still don't have a workstation; I accidentally burn half my front lawn to the ground; check engine light comes on in my truck, diagnosis seems easy to fix, but I mess up the bolt head on the part trying to get it off, still not fixed; have a *terrible* migraine after losing a game of racquetball, so bad we think it's a TIA (mini-stroke), so I go to the hospital they do $12k-worth of tests and find nothing wrong, though some lightheadedness and headaches linger; 3 weeks later the hair on the sides of my head starts falling out, leaving me looking like I got a bowl cut, maybe caused by slight hypothyroidism which was maybe caused by the contrast dye they used in the CT scan -- or it's all caused by the stress of thinking I could've been about to die? doctors have never seen it before, no mention of anything like it on the internet; despite the fact I got a flu shot, I get a nasty case of the flu perfectly coincident with an out of town meeting to kick off the last of our work on a program, since a week or so earlier it was announced our program was going to be cancelled.

In summary, I hope spring '09 never happens again!

Back to the subject at hand, my flight yesterday from Tucson to Dallas was delayed by 3 hours, which made me miss my flight to Huntsville -- the last one of the evening.

So at 9pm I called the travel services company, and they made me a reservation with a Holiday Inn -- "just catch the shuttle from the airport". So I got on the HI shuttle, and rode for half an hour only to discover that it was the wrong Holiday Inn! Grr!

Lesson? If you take an airport shuttle to a hotel, make sure it's going to the right hotel! Just because it has the name of your hotel on it doesn't mean it's the right one!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Easter bunny

I found this on the counter this morning:


I'd like to know the answers to these questions too. =)

Does anyone read this thing?

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